Despite the recent decision by Yahoo! to end work-from-home privileges for its employees, the trend for workers to skip commutes and office politics is growing. Before you decide to take the work-from-home plunge as an employee or business owner, consider whether the popular option suits you.
More people work from home today than ever before. Some 13 million people — nearly 1 in 10 workers — spent at least one day a week away from the office in 2010, the last year for which the U.S. Census Bureau has data. And 5.8 million spent most of their work week at home — about 1.6 million more than in 1997
If your boss permits telecommuting or if you’ve decided to launch your own business, consider these 4 factors before setting up an office at home:
1. Are you self-motivated?
Some people thrive when they’re liberated from long commutes and office meetings. Others need structure. Be honest with yourself. Will you get more done from home or will you suffer from distractions — children, spouse, TV or eBay auctions?
If you’re working for a paycheck, you might get away with low productivity at home — until a boss catches on. But, if you’re in business for yourself, no one is going to pay you to goof off.
2. Do you have adequate space?
Laptops, tablets and mobile phones don’t take up much room — and you could work on these without benefit of a desk. But dedicated space can help you feel more organized. It also helps you create a distraction-free zone, a place where children’s sticky fingers and pets’ muddy paw prints aren’t allowed.
Ideally you should have a room to devote to your business activities — even if it’s a shed at the bottom of the garden. It’s good to have somewhere you can think and plan and a quiet corner to make phone calls to your customers or business associates.
3. Does your family support your work-at-home plan?
It goes without saying that your family can be crucial to your success in business — you can also include your extended family and friends since encouragement, especially in the early stages, is so important to you. You may need help with childcare or a reprieve from certain domestic chores while you get your business up and running and allow you to cope with busy times. Your family can also help in a practical way with your business and it can be a lot of fun. For example, you can make a boring envelope-stuffing job into a social get-together and create a party atmosphere for everyone who turned up to help.
4. How good are your management skills?
If you’re starting a business, you may be able to handle things on your own for a while. But, before long, you’ll need to hire help and many of your employees or contractors could also be stay-at-home workers.
Can you manage help you can’t see face-to-face? If you have good communications skills and are comfortable keeping in touch via email and Skype, you may enjoy managing remote workers.
But if you — or the type of business you run — demands face time, you may be more comfortable in an office environment.
A remote workforce can save you a lot of money in office overhead but the savings will evaporate if you can’t effectively manage people who live in different time zones and whose faces are unfamiliar to you.
Telecommuting to Teletubbies?
Office workers waste a lot of time — in meetings, in water cooler chats, in cigarette breaks and in commutes. Working from home offers the potential to get more done in less time — or a lot more done in an equal amount of time.
Home also affords all of the luxuries (and time-killers) of being in a cozy environment. If working from home makes you too comfortable and you finding yourself watching cartoons in the morning and taking bubble baths in the afternoon, working from home is not for you.